A day on the road with BNR panel member Thijs Knaap

Published on: 13 February 2020

Thijs Knaap, senior strategist at APG AM, has been a panel member of the BNR investment panel for over a year. At BNR they know him as someone who is not tempted by easy sound bites. His style is to have an eye for the broader perspective on the economy, stock markets and his specialty Asia. How does he prepare for a radio broadcast? We tagged along with him for a day.


February 4, 10:45 a.m.: two hours and forty-five minutes before the broadcast


Thijs Knaap enters the room spokesmen Michael Vos and Dick Kors are in. He is dressed in a spotless white shirt, black dress pants and suit jacket and freshly polished shoes. “I’m slightly overdressed for a radio performance,” he later jokes, “but I have an appointment with a client later today.” He’s holding two pages of notes in his hand. Yesterday, he received the subjects that are going to be discussed by email from the editors: elections of the democratic presidential candidate, the effects of the Corona virus on Chinese stock prices, and APG’s new sustainable and responsible investment policy.  What can he tell us about that on behalf of APG? He already has an outline of it on paper. With Dick and Michael, he dots the i’s. Have all the aspects of a subject been dealt with? What should you put the emphasis on? Meanwhile, Thijs is adding changes to his own notes while writing.


11:30 a.m.: two hours before the broadcast


After the meeting with the spokespeople Thijs has a brief consultation with Erik Jan Stork, fiduciary manager responsible for investments. Erik Jan provides some further substantive input about the new ABP sustainability policy. Thijs: “For the more specific subjects, such as sustainable investments and investing in shares, I always consult a colleague who is expert in a particular subject. That is very useful and fun too, because it is rapidly expanding my APG network.”


12:40 p.m.: fifty minutes before the broadcast


After a quick lunch, it is time to travel to BNR. From the Zuidas to Amsterdam-East. A trip he usually takes on his bicycle. “Easy and quick, and a bit of extra movement won’t do me any harm.” But he does check the precipitation radar. It looks like the trip there will be dry. Apparently, some showers are expected on the way back. “Come on, let’s take a chance!” A few minutes later, on the bike: “I just counted: this will be my 21st broadcast as a panel member of BNR Zakendoen (Business Operations).” How do you become a regular panel member of a radio program? “Well, let me think. Last year, I got back to the Netherlands after a nearly two-year adventure at APG AM in Hong Kong. I already had the required media experience from previous positions. In addition to macro-economic knowledge, I now also had more of an understanding of the Asian market. You get invited for a broadcast once and before you know it your name is in the editor’s database and you get invited back repeatedly. With the full support of APG, of course. They saw it as a nice opportunity to generate some publicity.”


1:10 p.m.: twenty minutes before the broadcast


Thijs greets co-panel member Martine Hafkamp van Fintessa when he walks through the revolving door into the studio. On the couch at reception, they quickly run their topics by each other. Nervous? No, that’s not quite the right word. More like a healthy competitive tension, a moment of extra alertness and focused attention. “A performance in the media is never just a conversation. I received that wise lesson from the previous spokesman at APG. I sometimes realize that during a broadcast. A medium wants something from you, in the form of an interesting insight, or a provocative quote, and at the same time, as APG, we get the opportunity to share our vision with a wide audience.”


1:27 p.m.: three minutes before the broadcast


Clap, clap! Mary Pieterse Bloem from ABN Amro, the third panel member, has also sat down on the couch. A light-hearted conversation about the latest investment trends is abruptly interrupted by the recording manager. He indicates it’s time to go into the studio, by clapping his hands. Behind the glass, presenter Thomas van Zijl is already waiting for them. After some handshaking and a brief chat, the panel members go and stand behind their own microphones.


11:30 p.m.: start of the broadcast


The broadcast starts light-heartedly with a joke about Thijs’ pages of notes. “At BNR, they know by now that I come well-prepared.” During the program, some investors that can get a discussion going with some provocative quotes are invited. Thijs: “That’s not my style. I always try to put things in perspective and provide insight. I’m there not just as Thijs Knaap, but also as a representative of one of the biggest investment managers of the world. So, it’s my responsibility to come well-prepared. That doesn’t mean I avoid unexpected, personal questions. I trust that, even if it gets personal, I can speak largely on behalf of APG.”


1:45 p.m.:


The new sustainable and responsible investment policy comes up. Thomas van Zijl immediately fires off a critical question for Thijs. Does this policy not impose too many restrictions? Thijs: “First, we must make the CO2 emission of our portfolio measurable and then we must push it back. Some companies will fall off. We totally trust that we will be able to meet these goals while maintaining profit and risk.”


2:00 p.m.:


End of the broadcast. Thijs chats with presenter Thomas van Zijl for a few more minutes and then appears at the reception desk again. It’s raining out by now. With a cup of coffee at Dauphine, a nearby restaurant, we wait for the shower to pass. How did it go? “Pretty good. Although it’s always tricky to summarize something complex, like a sustainable investment policy, in just a few sentences.”


2:20 p.m.


By now it’s pouring outside. Cycling back in a suit is not an attractive option. We decide to take our bikes onto the metro to get back. Back to his “fan club” at Symphony. Most of his immediate co-workers have listened to the broadcast, I expect. Sometimes there is a slightly critical tone. “Why didn’t you discuss this topic?”, but secretly, they are pretty proud of their man at BNR.  


Listen to the broadcast of the BNR Investment panel with Thijs Knaap here.